2004-11-19 08:47 am (UTC)
ABOUT UNPAID MANDATORY SUNDAY WORKDAYS...
4th Commandment; Verses 8-11: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
2004-11-19 03:35 pm (UTC)
Re: ABOUT UNPAID MANDATORY SUNDAY WORKDAYS...
Please leave god out of it (with lowercase G!)
2004-11-19 09:08 am (UTC)
I am a huge video game fan and I purchase many titles and systems on various platforms. I enjoy and cherish the games I own and spend many hours of my life playing video games. I've seen very few insider looks at the development of a game by a team of programers, artists, writers, directors, and designers. I know that they sometimes are working hard for many long hours under great demands by bosses, company owners, and gamer expectations. I, however, hope that I am never supporting businesses that practice unethical and illegal treatment of their workers during game development. After reading your blog, I am saddened by my past support of EA games. I have purchased numerous games from their company in the past mostly sports titles and the occasionaly 007 or Need for Speed. Knowing what I know now about EA and their worker treatment I will not purchase for myself or others any title made by EA until they dramatically change their policies and compensate your SO. I will also return any game purchased by someone else for me if it's an EA game. I know I won't be able to part with my old EA games but I know everytime I play I'm going to be thinking about the sacrifices your family had to make as well as the other families of EA employees, current and former. I hope if there is a case against EA that the employees who were mistreated will be reembursed for their hard work.
I am a storywriter. I don't know if any of my stories will be transformed into a game or movie but if one is I will personally demand the ethical and fair treatment of every one of the workers involved. I'll even share the profits.
2004-11-19 10:45 am (UTC)
I'd just like to inform you that you've made the largest newspapers in Norway with this post. As any other western country, we too are plagued by outsourcing and downgrading of benefits and salary for programmers. Seeing posts like these, it underlines the importance of, for example downloading HL2 from Steam (Valve) instead of buying it from Vivendi, and in any other way supporting programmers/developers.
We make the programs, we can set the rules. Do not be intimidated by suits, they are ruining the world in pursuit of quick bucks in all areas of business.
2004-11-19 05:59 pm (UTC)
Form a Union and walk out
We've seen this time and time again; arrogant/incompetent managers pushing the limits to increase profits. In a virtual monopoly, the employee has no real choice to leave. The key is to use your technical skills to rally support and walk out. Sure, you'll run into your share of cowards on the team who are too scared to do the right thing, but they'll jump on board once you have enough people involved.
Let's see what all the managers, with no experience in software development but employed from jobs at cereal and cosmetics companies, do when the cubicles are empty for 4 days straight.
2004-11-19 06:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Form a Union and walk out
fire you and get some other suckers...
2004-11-19 06:56 pm (UTC)
This is nothing new, sweat shops exist all over the world, people are exploited every minute of the day. Welcome to the corporate world.
I don't think its right, so I don't buy their products. Beyond that I don't have much power.
What worries me the most about the spoiled people in our society (like you) is that you don't care until it effects you. This has been going on all over the world forever. People abusing people. But as long as it doesn't effect you, you don't care.
But now it's happening to you, so you want to cry about it. If you were really supportive you would have urged your significant other to quit & find something better. But again, you didn't care until the bad attitude he comes home with started to effect you. Spoiled & Selfish.
2004-11-20 05:19 am (UTC)
Re: yeah, and?
Yeah rite...thats what americans do. If they think there is injustice going on in other parts of the world like a genocide or ethnic killings...americans send their troops to protect the minorities and to stop the injustice...like for example in Somalia, Afghanistan or even Iraq...guess what happens...Americans are the bad ones....So buzz off mister...
2004-11-19 07:34 pm (UTC)
Re: No offense
Well, no offense to you, but most of these people spent thousands of dollars, and years in college to become professionals. One of the reasons people get paid crap for manual labor is that it's a job that anyone can do if they have a strong back, and willingness to work. My boyfriend can be a construction worker if he wants to, and get paid nothing -- can the reverse be said for you? Can you be a programmer at the drop of a hat? That's why they get paid more, and should get appropriate compensation for the money and time spent in school.
And only someone who hasn't spent 12 hours in front of a computer in a single day can brush it off as cushy.
2004-11-19 07:42 pm (UTC)
Wall Street Journal article
I got access through my school library account:
Workers at EA Claim
They Are Owed Overtime
By NICK WINGFIELD and ROBERT A. GUTH
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
November 19, 2004; Page A6
Working at Electronic Arts Inc. isn't nearly as much fun as playing its games, according to some discontented workers, who are stepping up their criticism of labor practices at the industry's biggest game publisher.
A former Electronic Arts employee, Jamie Kirschenbaum, filed suit in July in California Superior Court in San Mateo, Calif., against the company for failing to pay overtime to the workers who produce the snazzy effects and eye-popping graphics inside the company's games. The suit was only recently disclosed by the company in a regulatory filing. Unlike most Silicon Valley engineers, who are not eligible for overtime, these "image production workers," as they are identified in the suit, might be considered neither professionals nor managers under state law, and therefore eligible for the extra pay.
The complaints over labor practices reflect the growing pains of an industry that in a few short years has shifted from a gaggle of small entrepreneurial companies to a $15 billion global business dominated by a few large corporations. In essence, these disgruntled workers argue that, far from the hip, creative image Electronic Arts conveys, work inside the company more resembles a fast-moving, round-the-clock auto assembly line.
Last week Joe Straitiff, a 33-year-old former Electronic Arts software engineer, posted a message on the Internet describing the pressures of completing games at Electronic Arts, which he said included 70-hour weeks for months on end.
"Everyone was extremely tense, exhausted and tired of feeling like they always had to come in," Mr. Straitiff said in an interview. He said he was fired recently because of repeated conflicts, mostly over long hours, with his supervisor.
Electronic Arts declined to comment specifically on Mr. Straitiff's complaints and on the pending litigation against the company. In a statement the company said it offers benefits and a work environment that are competitive with others in the industry. "As the industry leader, EA generates a lot of attention on issues common to all game developers," the statement said. "Everyone who works in a game studio knows that the hard work that comes with finalizing games isn't unique to EA."
A recent outpouring of online complaints led one group of game programmers, the International Game Developers Association, in San Francisco, to issue an open letter this week encouraging game companies to more seriously tackle quality-of-life issues at their companies. "Despite the continued success of the games industry, the immaturity of current business and production practices is severely crippling the industry," the nonprofit association said in the letter.
Of course, deadlines are hardly unique to the game business. There is scant proof that game production is worse than the pressures of the broader technology industry. But game-worker complaints may reflect a unique aspect of the game business. Game creators once were given free reign over the direction of games and were treated as rock stars.
As the industry has grown, so has management control over creators. Game making is a risky business, with production costs reaching $20 million for some games.
To limit risk, game makers are increasingly keeping a tighter leash on their creators, with strict production processes and tight deadlines to keep games on schedule.
Write to Nick Wingfield at email@example.com and Robert A. Guth at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facts about videogame maker Electronic Arts:
• 5100 full-time employees
• 32 new titles launched last year
• 27 titles earned $27 million or more
• $3 billion net revenue in 2004
Source: the company
2004-11-20 01:31 am (UTC)
Re: Wall Street Journal article
I'm happy to see this story covered by any mainstream media outlet, but I have a few issues with their story and how they implicitly characterize us.
Thanks for covering the EA lawsuit - it is important to game developers such as myself that this story spread as much as possible. However, I would like to dispute a few points in your article.
1) EA stated that "Everyone who works in a game studio knows that the hard work that comes with finalizing games isn't unique to EA."
This is true, but fails to acknowledge the complaint or the core problem - simply because bad labor practices are widespread does not make them right, and this doesn’t only apply to EA. It is not uncommon or unacceptable to "crunch" to finish a game, but when teams are working a majority of the project's length in overtime that hardly counts as "finalizing" the project.
I don't think any of us expect crunch time to go away entirely - what we are disputing is an increasing reliance on it. In our opinion, this is a critical failure of planning, resource allocation and human resource management, which also happens to adversely affect our quality of life.
2) You state "There is scant proof that game production is worse than the pressures of the broader technology industry. But game-worker complaints may reflect a unique aspect of the game business. Game creators once were given free reign over the direction of games and were treated as rock stars."
I believe there are significant differences between game development and other technological jobs. This is primarily a creative entertainment industry while many other technology jobs are not. Additionally, games jobs don't compensate well compared to other technology jobs, and people sacrifice much larger paychecks for the opportunity to work on something they love. Finally, there are still plenty of game creators that are treated like rock stars, they just comprise a much smaller percentage of the industry these days. No one expects free reign, and you almost imply that we're complaining that we didn't get our bowl of green M&M's.
3) You write "As the industry has grown, so has management control over creators” and “s. To limit risk, game makers are increasingly keeping a tighter leash on their creators, with strict production processes and tight deadlines to keep games on schedule."
Management control has grown, but is it having the opposite effect you describe. Management is not keeping a tighter leash on developers - these days we're the ones that usually want to finish the games and limit their scopes, not them. Today's game producers don't see their job so much to finish the game, but to get as much out of the team as possible. This usually involves lots of "feature creep," where unscheduled features are continually added without adjusting the game's schedule or hiring additional employees.
Your statement that there are "strict production processes" is also entirely false – a vast majority of companies employ no one with any managerial training whatsoeer. At many companies, "Producer" is a position one can ascend to from the Quality Assurance department, a department which requires no college or highschool degree. Other commerical software companies such as Adobe have professionally-trained managers to oversee their schedules, and their products are typically narrower in scope than your average game. "Strict production processes," in many ways, are precisely what we are asking for.
While the games we make are constantly adapting to new technology, the management and resource allocation procedures are right out of the stone age, based on logging more hours rather than planning and working smarter. However, the work schedule has driven much of the game’s experienced staff away from the industry - there is no retention of knowledge, compounding the problem.
2004-11-19 07:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you for speaking up and saying what we spouses are all thinking!
2004-11-19 08:20 pm (UTC)
Goes up on Gamespot
2004-11-19 09:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Goes up on Gamespot
This is a really great article - mentions most of the dimensions to this story and connects them. Also glad that it involves interviews with the IGDA and EA_Spouse herself.
2004-11-19 08:21 pm (UTC)
In random order:
 Boycotts aren't going to work - too much product going to those that are hard to reach and inform.
 Unions won't work well, but they might have an effect. Becuase the reality is, what's needed is a walkout on a liscented title. Near ship.
 The real issuses that EA (and other companies) need to deal with are:
(a) People promoted above their competence. Guy works in the industry X years becomes the lead programmer on something, scrapes by a few more and becomes project lead. Then has no idea how to schedule or get people to work better/smarter. Longer on the other hand....
(b) Brain drain. The reason they love to recruit kids out of school isn't just "cheaper" it's that they are having a REAL problem putting veterans in those positions. Because the FIRST thing they do is try to get then to work the stupid hours. Long hours happen. Crunch is bad, but it happens too. Permanent crunch is just stupid, and the many veterans really don't put up with it forever.
Oh, and as for sending your jobs overseas? Forget it. They would have already if they could (I'll bet they've tried). But they can't change their minds every ten seconds if the workers are a world away. They'd want clear directions on what the company wants. AND they'd demand more money for random changes!
1) You're right, but I won't stop someone from boycotting an EA game if they feel like it. :)
2) I agree here. Maybe just because I'm a designer I tend to think of this in terms of rewards and incentives, so I tend to think that it is important that there continue to be talk to unionization because it is a good threat. Because of the threat of unionization, companies are incentivized to fix things.
I would take a union over the current state of things, but I think we can come to a better solution than that.
3) I agree with these, although maybe it's a little harshly phrased. One of the biggest things I got out of Ducktales as a kid was Scrooge McDuck's motto "Work smarter, not harder" - clearly not enough people watched the Disney Afternoon growing up. :)
Some companies are trying outsourcing - Ubisoft has an office in Shanghai now (they even tried to recruit me as a designer for that office) that is run by Westerners. I believe they made Splinter Cell there...? I don't think any of these efforts have been as successful as the publishers expected, though.
2004-11-19 08:31 pm (UTC)
Here are more places that its been posted...
2004-11-19 08:46 pm (UTC)
About Overtime for California Programmers
Okay, here's what I don't get. Read this site:
It states that ALL of the following must be true to be considered exempt, if you're a programmer:
To be exempt, a Computer Software Employee must:
- Be skilled and proficient in the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized information to computer systems analysis, programming, and software engineering;
- The employee's hourly rate of pay is not less than forty-one dollars ($41.00) as adjusted by the California Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers to January 1, 2001;
- Be primarily engaged in work that is intellectual or creative; and
- Exercise discretion and independent judgment.
If the employer cannot show all of the above, the employee is non-exempt and entitled to overtime pay and other benefits.
If we're making less than $41 an hour, shouldn't we be getting overtime???
More on it here:
http://www.bigclassaction.com/it_overtime.html (note, it says the hourly cut off wage is $43.58) and it states specifically: "Actually "employees in the computer software field" are only exempt from overtime premium pay if they are paid on an hourly basis, make more than $43.58 per hour and perform certain defined job duties. All others must be paid overtime compensation.
(Laws vary from state to state)." That sounds like if you are a programmer, and are not paid hourly, then you're still not exempt, and should still get overtime!
Can anyone with more knowledge explain this??
2004-11-19 09:56 pm (UTC)
STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! Between 1 Month and 2 Weeks before the most critical of deadlines.
2004-11-19 10:16 pm (UTC)
I was employed by Ea, Listen to this!
I will back you up on the fact that employees are expected to work a manditory 80+ hours a week for 2 up to 3 months straight. This is all out in the open. Its true you begin to lose a grip on real life when you live at work. Feeling like you are a guest in your own home, loopiness, life is a little hazy. All of this aside. When i was employed by EALA we had a member of the EA test team to die mysteriously during one of their crunchtime OT stints. This tester was under 25, fully healthy. He rarely missed days for illness, and was a great worker. The day he died we where told that he died painlessly in his sleep. His heart just stopped. Autopsy reports no alchohol drugs or desease, and that he his heart basically just stopped. no constricted vessels nothing. Call me a moron for letting myself get involved with a company that cares nothing about its employees but i am positive that stress and lack of sleep and make the possibilities higher if not cause a heart attack. This is my 2 cents take it how you want it. I make no conclusions about his death, and blame no one. But I thought you could make up your own descision
2004-11-20 06:20 am (UTC)
Re: I was employed by Ea, Listen to this!
Me too, me too!
EA overworked me and I died!
And I'm still scared to quit!
2004-11-20 02:48 am (UTC)
Too long to post a comment...
So I blogged some thoughts on this in own LJ. Interested in your thoughts.